Healing Thyself: UofTMed Goes Inside the Issue
“Clinician wellness is not self-serving — when we feel better, we give better care,” says Dr. Susan Edwards.
Edwards is the Director of the Faculty’s Office of Resident Wellness and was a panelist at this week’s Faculty of Medicine Advancement event, UofTMed Inside the Issue.
The event focused on physician wellness — the theme of the award-winning UofTMed magazine’s Summer 2017 issue. Edwards, family medicine resident Stephanie Klein, MD student Noam Berlin and Paediatrics Professor Trey Coffey all shared their opinions and experiences with editor Heidi Singer and an audience of 100 alumni, donors, faculty and staff.
Physician burnout rates, approaching 50 per cent according to multiple studies, and alarming estimates of high suicide rates among doctors have made healing the healer a major concern.
Edwards says there’s a need to identify clinician wellbeing as a key quality indicator in health care, as health-care professionals may not be able to give optimal care when they are unwell themselves.
Klein experienced the tragic results of overlooking wellness. She lost her brother to suicide two years ago, just as he was about to start his own family medicine residency. At the event, she described the importance of “Balint groups,” which offer physicians opportunities to explore the emotional impact of their work in a safe and supportive space.
Klein and MD student Berlin argue against the stereotype that the millennial generation has it easy. They point to stresses faced by the millennial generation like increasing workloads and patient complexity. Berlin took time away from medical school for mental health reasons, and played a major role in developing the new resilience curriculum for the Foundations Curriculum.
And after years researching medical error and patient safety as SickKids Medical Officer of Patient Safety and Project Investigator, Coffey only recently experienced the anxiety and emotional turmoil of being involved in a safety event.
“A few years ago I would have naively said that I would be fine if I’d made a mistake,” she says. “I’d been telling people not to worry, that we used to blame the individual but now understand it’s usually a systems error — but that doesn’t make it easy.”
Panelists spoke about burnout and uncivil behaviour. They also reflected on the loss of physician lounges and how a move meant to promote interprofessional teamwork may have unintentionally reduced the availability of safe spaces for professionals to chat openly about their work.
“The tech sector has ping-pong rooms for a reason — work gets done there,” says Edwards. “We don’t have that space, and we need it.”
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Burnout, suicide, depression, and the emotional effects of mistakes. We address physician wellness in the next issue of UofTMed magazine, out May 30.Sign up for your free digital copy.